Most Americans Using Alternative Therapies: Consumer Reports

Most Americans Using Alternative Therapies: Consumer Reports

A Consumer Reports survey found that while most Americans would choose prescription drugs to treat 12 common conditions, roughly 75% partake in alternative therapies, such as yoga and acupuncture.

The survey of 45,601 people suggests that about 38 million adults nationwide visit acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and other complementary therapy providers a combined 300 million times per year, according to the publication’s report.

While dietary supplements ranked well below OTC medications in many cases, chiropractic treatment, deep-tissue massage, and yoga dominated the list of alternative therapies for back and neck pain and osteoarthritis. Furthermore, 73% of respondents said they took mainstream vitamins and minerals, making these the most widely used alternatives for general health; other dietary supplements (57%) and mind-body or hands-on therapies (~20%) were also reported as alternatives.

When Consumer Reports asked respondents why they chose a given alternative treatment, most people said they were simply “a proponent” of it. “Some people use these therapies because it’s just the way they were raised,” said Richard Nahin, PhD, MPH, senior adviser, scientific coordination and outreach, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH. He added that some respondents said they had gone through a transformational process that made them look at life differently. Some believed—in many cases mistakenly—that dietary supplements are safer than prescription medications because they are natural. Others chose alternatives to avoid the side effects of prescription medications for some conditions.

The survey also suggests that physicians are selective when endorsing dietary supplements. They tended to direct patients toward fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin, which have some clinical evidence behind them. And although quite rare, according to the survey, some physicians are adding alternative treatments, like acupuncture, to their practices.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know…

  • Do you recommend any alternative therapies to your patients? Why or why not?
  • What role can physicians play in educating patients on alternative therapy?


  1. Thank you so much for all of this – I know that personally, I will refer patients as long as 1. I have a good relationship with the alternative doctor and trust that he won’t endanger the patient’s health and 2. what I recommend as alternative medicine has a low risk of interfering with the patient’s health or recovery.

    Most alternative medicines are fairly low-impact anyway, but you don’t want to refer a client and make them more ill.

  2. There is no coherent, consistent and widely accepted definition of alternative medicine. Often referred to as complementary and alternative medicine, or simply as CAM,alternative medicine resists easy definition because the health systems and practices to which it refers are diffuse and its boundaries are poorly defined.”’.

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  3. This is a good opportunity to learn and contribute to patient management.

  4. 1. I usually recommend alternative therapies to patients when it seems possible and comfortable to do so.
    2. Physicians can give some solution to the patients’ life when he or she seems hopeless for the illness. In addition, when the disease is incurable.


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